Bath Rugby’s three-match winning Gallagher Premiership sequence may have come to an end at the hands of the league’s champions Exeter Chiefs in Round 12, but there was plenty of positives for Stuart Hooper’s men to take from the match.
A first half of ambitious, silky attacking rugby saw the Blue, Black and Whites open with 13 unanswered points courtesy of Rhys Priestland’s metronomic boot and a Ruriadh McConnochie special while the defence was at its physical best to shut out the European title holders.
Exeter did come back into the contest towards the end of the first period before going on to win the match 38-16 and whilst Director of Rugby Stuart Hooper was pleased with components of his side’s display, he has challenged the group to perform at the high level shown for a prolonged period starting this weekend against Newcastle Falcons.
“Frustration was high (following the game), mixed with a feeling of positivity around the develops we made at the start of that game,” he said.
“They came to us as Premiership and European champions so they are a quality team and we’re not at that level yet. There were elements of our game that show we can push on and challenge them.
“In the meantime we need to make sure we’re not satisfied with playing well for 30 minutes. We need to be determined to make sure we can train and prepare at a level that allows us to that for 85 or 90 minutes if it’s needed.”
Bath face the task of heading to a venue they haven’t won at since 2015 on Saturday.
Newcastle narrowly won their last outing at Kingston Park against Harlequins at the end of February before suffering a 31-16 defeat on the road at Sale Sharks last time out; Joel Matavesi – the younger brother of Bath man Josh – crashing under the sticks for the Falcons only try of the night.
The result was an anomaly in terms of Newcastle’s usually sound defensive performances, something which McConnochie acknowledges.
The wing, who will be making his 50th Bath appearance in the North East, insists his have to go for the jugular when opportunities open up.
“It’s always a tough place to go,” the England international said.
“Their track record at home speaks for itself; they’re a very hard team to score points against but it’s massively important to take points when they are on offer and build pressure.
“We’ve done really well on the road of late. I think Sale was a huge performance for us, especially where we were at the time coming off the back of that Bristol loss. We showed a lot of spirit to go up there and front up against a very physical pack which we’ll be facing again in Newcastle on Saturday.”
Date: 13 March 2021
Competition: Gallagher Premiership R13
Where: Kingston Park
Referee: Ian Tempest (84th Premiership game)
Assistants: Peter Allan & Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Citing Officer: Shaun Gallagher
Media Coverage: BT Sport Extra 3HD
Newcastle falcons CURRENT FORM
Sale Sharks 31-16 Newcastle Falcons | Gallagher Premiership
Newcastle Falcons 25-22 Harlequins | Gallagher Premiership
Newcastle Falcons 9-15 Exeter Chiefs | Gallagher Premiership
London Irish 31-22 Newcastle Falcons | Gallagher Premiership
Newcastle Falcons 22-10 Gloucester Rugby | Gallagher Premiership
A Kingston Park classic
Bath Rugby’s last win at Kingston Park in 2015 with the Blue, Black and Whites scoring four tries in an entertaining encounter with Newcastle Falcons.
Centre Ollie Devoto crashed over from George Ford’s delicate pass to cancel out Rory Clegg’s early penalty and wing Semesa Rokoduguni – back on the bench this weekend – crossed soon after, dotting in the corner from a delicious Jonathan Joseph pass which cut three Falcons players out of the game.
Sinoti Sinoti used dazzling footwork and speed to power home for a Falcons reply just past the half-hour mark, but a lightly lifted pop from Devoto allowed Anthony Watson the opportunity to sprint in for Bath’s third ahead of half-time.
Brimming with confidence, the visitors started the second half as they finished the first with Joseph’s creative inside pass sending Matt Banahan on a free run for the bonus point.
Ford knocked over a late penalty to add to his tally with Falcons only managing a further two penalties in the second half due to Bath’s stern defensive display.